The yogic tradition tells of the existence of paranormal powers called siddhis, which naturally appear as one moves along the spiritual path. These include such feats as levitation, telepathy, bilocation, invisibility, and more. Magicians and sorcerers may seek these powers out for their own sake, as the goal of their practice. Many spiritual teachers, on the other hand, view the siddhis as a distraction. By luring us with their enticements, they keep us bound to desire, unable to find liberation. But maybe this is not all there is to the story.
Every spiritual practice, whether you know it or not, has specific goals––what scholar Debashish Banerji calls “goals of becoming”. In other words, whatever our approach to spiritual life is, there is always some basic goal behind it. Do you seek liberation from the world, for instance, or liberation within the world? See the difference?
Have you ever thought clearly about your spiritual goals, or even considered that different goals exist? It’s worth taking a look, non-judgmentally, at what ours might be. For some of us, spirituality may be an extension of a quest for wellness; for others, it’s about money, or channeling ETs, or overcoming trauma, or escaping the matrix, or being in the present moment, or creating a new reality. Some may say that goals are beside the point––enlightenment is agenda-free, the Tao does not take sides. The truth is that all of these are true and useful to a relative degree––and all are capable of distortion. That is how it goes at the level of becoming––in the realm of manifest existence, where even the most advanced beings dwell at least some of the time. Whatever we might say about the level of Absolute Being is almost beside the point. At that level, everything is perfect. The real purpose of asking these questions about our goals has to do with what we do the rest of the time: how we tread the path to Being, and how we make our way in the world once we have that contact.
I do not believe in the existence of one supreme spiritual goal. When you realize what infinity really means, how could you possibly think such a thing? But I do think it helps to be clear about our goals––even if we believe that we should ultimately renounce all goals.
If we are being honest, I think most of us today do not want to merely transcend the world, but to transform it. We don’t simply want to awaken from the dream, but to infuse ourselves the the freedom of awakening to dream a better dream. We want to have our cake and eat it, too. We want to realize our divinity, free ourselves from suffering, explore our multidimensionality, and live a joyful life in this body, on this planet.
I see the signs of what Rick Archer has called “epidemic of awakening,” with the potential to transform human consciousness on a large scale. By no means is it a done deal. Even if you’ve had an awakening experience, there’s still a lot of work to be done to integrate that experience into your life, affecting every thought, feeling, action, and interaction. Still, this transformation is possible, and with it new powers of consciousness are bound to arise. So, we need to consider the Siddhis a little differently: not as titillating spiritual knick-knacks, nor as obstacles to liberation, but as natural abilities of the beings we are becoming.
In India, there is a line of spiritual adepts known as Siddhas: perfected masters who have not only realized the Self, but have in some way transformed their earthly nature. Many tales tell of their bizarre superhuman abilities. While we might see these as pure fantasy, on the one hand, or accounts of extraordinary beings, far beyond our own realms of experience, maybe there is something in these tales for us––even those of modest accomplishment. Maybe, by merely considering our own Siddha potential, something can begin to awaken in us.
One story tells of the Siddha Caurangi, the son of King Devapala. Caurangi got in trouble after rejecting his stepmother’s romantic advances. Humiliated by Caurangi’s rejection, she took her revenge by covering herself in scratches and blaming him. The king, believing his wife, ordered his executioners to abandon Caurangi in the forest after cutting off all of his limbs. Before he could bleed to death, however, the great Siddha Mina Natha appeared to him and initiated him into yoga, telling him that after a successful practice, his limbs would grow back. So Caurangi remained limbless, propped against a tree, practicing for twelve years. Then, some traveling merchants passed his way one night, carrying a load of gold and gems, and when Caurangi called out to them from the dark, they replied they were passing by with a load of coal, to which Caurangi replied, “So be it.” The following morning, the merchants found that their gold had turned to coal and, remembering their exchange the previous night, returned to find Caurangi propped against his tree. They explained their situation and belief that Caurangi had magically turned their gold into coal with his words. He said that he was not sure about that, but if that were the case, their gold would return to them this instant. So, the merchants opened the bag, and indeed, the gold was there. Realizing his power, Caurangi grew his limbs back that very day.
We can read this tale on several levels. Setting aside the idea that this is either a true story of an ancient adept or an exaggerated legend meant to conjure a superhuman mystique, we can read it mythically/ esoterically as relating to our own nature. I recently heard Daryl Anka say that we (humans) are like seven-foot-tall beings perpetually trying to cram themselves into a one-foot box and that when we realize the inherent freedom of our nature, we can stop this. My experience resonates with this.
Of course, this is what yoga, in its many forms, is all about — particularly with the Siddhas, whose goal is a transformed physical existence. And while it is true that the Siddhas represent an extraordinary level of yogic accomplishment — even if only one percent of these tales are true — and while it does no good to pretend to be more advanced than we are, we still might ask ourselves what latent capabilities these stories point to within ourselves.
If it is true, as I believe, that many previously hidden potentials are now becoming available to human beings, then the siddhis are not so fantastical after all. Siddhis may come in many shapes and sizes, but recognizing their reality starts with acknowledging their first subtle signs. When we notice these hints, which can be as simple as an uptick in synchronicity or a feeling of knowing what another person is about to say, a door opens to another level of experience. Sri Aurobindo felt that siddhis should neither be pursued as goals in themselves, nor shunned as spiritual impediments, but accepted as a normal and natural expression of consciousness at a certain level. He says, “I do not wish to argue the question of the existence or nonexistence of Yogic siddhis; for it is not with me a question of debate, or of belief and disbelief, since I know by daily experience that they exist. I am concerned rather with their exact nature and utility” (Sri Aurobindo, 1997, p.14). If we wish not only to transcend limitation and realize divinity but also to transform this existence, we must come to terms with the siddhis. At the very least, this means acknowledging our inherent freedom and power — without claiming this for the ego, which would be dangerous if not disastrous.
With this in mind, I see Caurangi’s story as an invitation to contemplate our own potential Siddha nature: In what ways has life wronged us, left us limbless, unable to move? Where is our magical lifeline, whether as a teacher/ teaching, an insight, or a practice? Where do we exercise great power without even realizing it? And, when we do discover this power, how do we choose to grow our limbs back?
Sri Aurobindo. (1997). Essays Divine and Human. Sri Aurobindo Ashram.
Alex Stein is a teacher, coach, astrologer, and shamanic sound healer. He is currently pursuing a PhD at the California Institute of Integral Studies in East-West psychology, in the hopes of finding a new language to bring awakened understanding into public discourse. To learn more, or book a session, visit Alex at https://www.twentyfirstcenturyalchemy.com/